||58 degrees 48.6 minutes North,
00 degrees 06 minutes West
The road to Amsterdam, The Netherlands
From the header you can see that I'm actually
writing this report in England. I've been a little lazy lately
so now I'm backtracking a bit to bring you up to date.
Copenhagen to Amsterdam was a hard push.
We fell victim to schedule pressures once again. Camellia and
Ryan had a plane to catch (London-SFO, 17.Aug.99) and we were
determined to see something of Amsterdam and London before they
We made good time south from Copenhagen
then west to the eastern entrance to the Kiel canal in Kiel, Germany.
Europeans call this the North Sea-East Sea canal. The East Sea
is what we know as the Baltic.
We transited the canal, from Kiel in the
east to Brunsbuttel in the west, August 4. We were keeping pace
with a smaller Norwegian boat partly because Camelia had befriended
one of their crew members. That evening it was through the lock,
out of the canal and across the mouth of the Elbe river to Cuxhaven,
Germany. The next day out into the tidal current and southwest
toward Norderney, a German resort island on their North Sea coast.
Motoring along the becalmed North Sea, an
hour or two from Norderney, about 1800 hours (sorry but we've
decided that's the way we'll keep time) a speedy boat roared past
us headed in the same direction as us ... approximately west by
southwest. A minute or two later she stopped. She started up again
headed north. She ran for a few seconds then stopped, dead in
the water. We skated along at a blistering 7 knots until we caught
up with and passed a hundred meters or so south of the power boat
(affectionately know by some sailors as stinkboats).
Now, International rules of for safety at
sea require that vessels have a VHF radio and, when under way,
they continuously monitor channel 16 on that VHF radio. As we
passed the power boat our VHF squawked and we heard a request
for help. It was the power boat. They claimed their engine had
failed and they needed help.
Now, try to understand what was going through
my mind here. We were a few miles off the German coast there was
relatively little boat traffic and it was clearly our responsibility
to respond to their request. On the other hand, paranoia being
what it is (and having seen too many movies) I considered the
possibility that they were faking and wanted to board our brand
new, expensive looking, American flagged boat. Further, I had
my brother's kids with me and he told me if they didn't return
safely that he'd beat me.
Sooooo .... this was my more or less paranoia
driven course of action. I sent Andy below to retrieve our 12
gauge flare pistol, trying to be discrete so the kids didn't notice.
They of course knew, as I found out later, exactly what was going
on. I stuffed the flare pistol and flares into my jacket pocket
and approached the power boat. As we circled them, they seemed
innocent enough, but you know the innocent looking ones are the
most dangerous. We prepared a towing bridle and threw them one
of our longer lines. They attached their end of the line to their
boat and we proceeded to tow them to Norderney. A couple of hours
later we towed them into Norderney harbor, shortened up the tow
line, passed in close to a search and rescue vessel and let go
of the tow line so they glided up to the SAR vessel just so. They
were ever so grateful and I felt a little stupid about having
been so paranoid. They next day we were off, our stores having
been augmented by a bottle of red and a bottle of white and enough
Dutch Guilders for a "nice dinner in Amsterdam" as they
put it. We tried to be graceful and not accept a gift for our
help but they insisted.
Oost Vlieland was next. Vlieland is a very
cool little Dutch island with a very cool little village on the
east end and an incredibly densely packed marina. We arrived pretty
late, around 2200 but the harbor master met us at the entrance.
The harbor master jetted around the marina in his inflatable boat,
standing up all the while. He led us to a spot along side another
boat and told us to tie up to that boat. We became one of some
500 boats (I'm guessing) that he had crammed into a marina which
probably had capacity for 300 on a good day. The harbor master
was in constant motion. As boats arrived he led them into the
melee and inevitably found one sort of mooring spot or another.
Everyone seemed happy to have a place ... I know we were.
We stayed in Oost Vlieland for a couple
of days to take a break.
Among the visiting boats were a number of
large, maybe 120 feet, old, 1900 vintage, Dutch boats. Jack Aubrey
referred to them as Dutchmen with "fat arses and leeboards"
These had been cargo carriers in the age of sail. They were specifically
built to ply the shallow, tide sensitive, waters and myriad canals
of the Netherlands. Now they are converted to passenger carriers,
sort of lowlands cruise ships, each of which carried 20-30 guests.
They were nearly massive with huge masts, lots and lots of sail
area and the "leeboards" that Aubrey referred to. Their
bows are as round as their sterns, they are long, low and wide
and really not very "pretty", except in the sense that
they were beautifully functional.
Most sailboats have keels. Keels not only
provide a righting ballast to keep the boat upright but they also
help keep the boat from being blown sideways by the wind (making
leeway) when under sail. Boats navigating the inland waterways
of The Netherlands must have very shallow draft and they must/should
be able to sit in the mud upright when they are caught, by an
outgoing tide. A keel draws too much water and a boat with a keel,
when grounded, doesn't stay upright. That is, keels aren't cool
in the shallow inland waterways of The Netherlands.
These Dutch boats have huge leeboards, about
the size of large barn doors. They sort of look like spare rudders
mounted on either side of the hull about midships. They are hung
by a swivel at the top and a line is attached to the bottom so
they can be lowered and raised according to need. On any given
point of sail only the downwind board (the leeward board) is lowered
into the water. They stick down into the water preventing leeway
just like a keel does. If they hit the bottom they just swivel
up and out of the way and the boat continues on. When they maneuver
in tight quarters, like Oost Vlieland marina, for example, they
raise and lower the leeboards alternately as they try to move
the boat first to port then to starboard. They are awkward and
ungainly and perfect for the application.
Chuck and Andy (I'm not telling you where
we were when I finished this)